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Inheritance the conundrum

Updated on September 19, 2015
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My background is based in social work, with an emphasis in aging well. I have honed my craft for over thirty years, focusing on holistic.

Life has certainly changed since baby-boomers reached 60's and 70's.  The impact on family has shown in every aspect of our live.
Life has certainly changed since baby-boomers reached 60's and 70's. The impact on family has shown in every aspect of our live.

How to bring family and friends together or how to stir the pot?

Inheritance – in a word is grief. “Inheritance” the word conjures up the gambit of emotions. The truth is for each of us to receive inheritance, we will lose someone very importance to us and in our lives. Inheritance can cause a riff within a family that may never heal or it may bring family members together, when once it was thought, there would never be a resolution to hurt feelings.

Many of us who are aging know or have known what we want to give to a close family member upon our death. There are also many close friends and family who may want the same item, especially if money gets extremely tight and our personal care must begin to use assets we have wanted to pass on. Certainly with the economic bubble that burst in mid-2000 everyone was affected by, some more than others. The one thing we can say, today the middle class is almost none existent. Those with limited income and assets less than the value of their home are struggling to get through each day to take care of themselves. Lifestyles, which were outside the norm in our country in 2003 or 2004, are now commonplace; today, families living together, Mom, Dad, 2 to 4 adult children and their children with Grand mama and Grandpapa all under one roof, with childcare many times falling to Grand mama and Grandpapa. How can we the elder generation leave anything for our family?

Most of the time whether in the upper classes or those with little more than the clothes on their backs, those items attributed with the most significant wealth are not those having a dollar figure rather items with sentimental value. The gifts that are proven to give us the most satisfaction are personal and having some connection to our ancestors. When approaching the nuts and bolts of the family estate, the legal world will directly need to access the legal estate. The legal estate is comprised of real property (house and any land), all financial worth to include autos, jewelry and so forth.

Our estate is financial or legally bound anything that can be deemed valuable to creditors, which would include in some cases repossession. However an item that is not found valuable by the legal definition of estate assets are personal diaries, remembrances, our journals, or pictures in most cases. Financial gain may not be the case when the memoir is a personal documentation of the person’s life or family’s life story. These are the memorabilia of our family that will not be sold for personal gain.

So how can we leave something for our families, which will be of value to them? Most of us realize that the sum of an estate is just that and not the true meaning of our relatives’ life. The true meaning is the stories they can tell and the places they have been. The wealth of knowledge is ours and ours alone. This gift is not one that can be replicated by anyone else, only our relative. This is the greatest inheritance we will seek. Today there are many ways to provide this to our families.

We can journal every day with the understanding that this journal will become the possession of one person in our family. We can dictate a memoir to all members of the family. We can put together photo albums that give chronological memoir for each of our family members’. I believe you have a clear understanding of what and how to leave a gift greater than money. The memories we speak of will be of value to other family members as life goes on, perhaps to descendants two or three generations down from us.

These are memories to be treasured by all who get them. We have all heard or seen the story of the Wedding Gown being worn by the daughter or granddaughter for her wedding. Perhaps a new take on this is the great-great granddaughter who is looking through family pictures and discovers her great grandmothers wedding gown and goes to a tailor or seamstress to have one fashioned like it.

These memories are even of more valuable when there has been a break in the bloodline (a divorce or adoption), which may leave a child outside the clear inheritance line, but still a blood relative. It is amazing to see the creativity of families, when given the bare bones perimeters and allowed to run with the idea.

In our country today, there are many elders who have either out lived our family/friends, have alienated or been alienated. One way to make sure our story is heard; is to write down our life story. However, in making this journal, pictorial, or letter, we must be very honest and extremely truthful. Perhaps the best part of all this is that we can be honest and truthful, knowing we will not be there to hear the response. The truth is however, in most cases what we believe to be terrible to admit or document is small potatoes to our death. And it is also a great way to go to sleep knowing we have explained our view uninterrupted while giving the others time to acknowledge our life. While this may seem a small matter to many, it is truly a Mount Everest, of problem solving. No matter who we are there is always some cleanup of personal possessions when a person passes away. Even the homeless with no resources have some things that need to be looked at, (the clothes they are wearing, the watch or earing, the ID which they are carrying) and there is always (by law) an attempt to notify family members no matter how distance.

Giving this part of our life the importance it is due will allow us to close up things in a manner we feel appropriate. This is a blessing to our family, friends and our self. At that all-important time in our life, we can close the door in the manner and way we like.

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